A few weeks ago much of the UK was battered by Storm Doris. High winds and torrential rain affected many areas of the country.
One Thursday after arriving home from a morning out cut short because of the inclement weather; I watched the rain beating against the glass of my bedroom window, observing the dark grey clouds while I lay down on my bed battling the effects of chronic pain ravaging throughout my legs. I lay there wondering if and when this horrible, destructive storm will end.
Waking the next morning, after opening my bedroom curtains, to my surprise and delight I was greeted by beautiful blue skies and glorious sunshine. It was then I was reminded that storms don’t last forever and that the sun always shines after the rain.
Furthermore, a realisation occurred to me that it could also be a perfect metaphor for life with chronic illness. We all will, at some point in our lives, will experience a storm in our lives; a dark point that at the time feels like we’ll never get out of. But, of course, nothing in life is permanent. Our experiences and feelings like most things, such as storms are transient, before moving on, and making way for the sun to shine once more.
Of course, the definition of ‘chronic’ is something, usually describing an illness which is persisting for an extended length of time or one which is constantly recurring. In this sense, living with chronic illness is like permanently living under a storm cloud. However, although our conditions are permanent, our symptoms can sometimes be transitory, allowing a small piece of sunshine in our days. It’s like Charlie Chaplin once said, “Nothing is permanent in this wicked world, not even our troubles.”
Symptoms, which are often persistent and loud, can on some days concede, the feelings and their effects being fleeting and mild, letting us have a rare, good day. Even living with a long-term condition, therefore, doesn’t mean accommodating a permanent storm in our lives.
Things recently have been difficult, in my own circumstances living with a neurological condition with increased pain and trembling in my legs. Some days it has been so bad that I wonder how I have managed to get out of bed in the morning. On the worst days, it has felt like I was living in my own bubble, surrounded by large and dark storm clouds above my head because of the severity of the physical symptoms, I was experiencing and the emotional toll they were having on my well-being.
Despite this, however, I have still found little rays of sunshine throughout my days even through this turbulent times. Even little things such as enjoying the feel of the sun on my face, especially after spending days inside, or enjoying the taste of my favourite bar of chocolate. It was also my birthday last week, and although my symptoms did slightly dampen the occasion, it was still so lovely to receive presents, cards and messages from people who took the time out of their lives to think of little, old me! These beautiful moments are small reminders that although it may not feel like it during this very moment, that storms indeed do not last forever. Nothing is permanent, and these thoughts and feelings will not last forever. This too shall pass.
Sitting here, thinking about the storms that roll in when living with chronic illness reminds me of my favourite quote from the author of one of my all-time favourite books, Louisa May Alcott. She once famously wrote, “I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning how to sail my ship.”
For me, it’s a truly beautiful reminder that the obstacles, challenges and difficulties that any of us face during our lives help us build strength and resilience, and ultimately it is these hardships that teach us how we should be living our lives. For if it were not for storms, we would never learn how to sail our ships; we would never learn the lessons of strength or resilience that helps us through the dark times. Of course, this is of little use during periods of distress.
As I continue experiencing this particular, and the often distressing symptoms that they bring, I will try and continue to remember that storms don’t last forever, and I hope you do too.
Or if not, I hope you find ways to create your own sunshine…